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A Further Step to Better Quality Data

A Further Step to Better Quality Data

Improving the quality of ethnicity data collected requires a standardised process that is used by all agencies that collect, record and use health information.

These protocols will assist people working in the health and disability sector to develop appropriate tools and training for people collecting ethnicity data.

Standardised approaches for all means we can all better rely on the accuracy and consistency of collected health data enabling better decision making over time on providing appropriate health services.

The New Zealand Health Strategy highlights the need for better access to relevant information to improve decision making at both the health and disability sector level and at community level, enabling a greater role in decision making by communities.

A good example of where good quality ethnicity data is useful is in attempts to reduce smoking rates. Smoking is the leading cause of preventable death in New Zealand killing around 4,500 people a year. The information we have now shows that a quarter of all adults smoke, but nearly half of all Maori adults and nearly a third of adult pacific people smoke. Better data about the age, gender and ethnicity of smokers helps ensure that interventions or strategies to reduce smoking rates are both targeted and effective at changing attitudes and behaviours in the right population groups. Good ethnicity data should also allow better monitoring of the effectiveness of these programmes over time.

These protocols are designed to assist in meeting the New Zealand Health Strategy requirements through better collection, analysis and communication of information - all of which in turn help to promote evidence-based decision-making.

The development of the ethnicity data protocols is a significant step towards understanding the health care needs of all ethnicities through accurate information.

The protocols have been endorsed by the Health Information Standards Organisation - an organisation set up to develop and promote information technology standards in the health sector.

Copies of these protocols are available on the Ministry's website.

Please attribute this information to the Ministry's NZHIS Group Manager, Mike Rillstone

Background Information

What ethnic groups do the Protocols apply to?

The Protocols are applicable to all ethnic groups and they do not favour one group.

Why is it necessary to have the Protocols?

Improving the quality of ethnicity data collected requires a standardised process that is used by all collectors, recorders and users of ethnicity data. A standardised approach for all means we can rely on the accuracy of the data, consistently and over time, enabling better decision making on appropriate service provision and health outcome evaluation.

What are the main features found in the Protocols? • The standard ethnicity question for the health and disability sector is the Statistics New Zealand 2001 Census ethnicity question and the format is to remain the same, the font size and dimensions must not be reduced. • Where a respondent may not be able to fill in a form or questionnaire themselves due to disability, incapacity, being deceased or being a newborn or child, the approach should be adjusted. • The respondent must identify their own ethnicity (called self-identification) regardless of collection method e.g. face-to-face contact, use of a form, electronic collection or telephone contact. • The collector must not guess ethnicity on behalf of the respondent, transfer the information from another form, or limit the number of ethnicities to be given.

Who will use the Protocols?

The individuals and groups in the health and disability sector to which this set of protocols applies are: • Collectors of ethnicity data, including health and disability administrators, clerks and health professionals • Users of ethnicity data, including all those who use health and disability ethnicity data for activities such as research, service planning or quality control, or for specific activities like deriving funding formulae • Health information software developers. • People working in the health and disability sector who develop tools and training for people collecting ethnicity data.

Why collect ethnicity data?

Collecting good quality ethnicity data in the health and disability sector is important for the following reasons. • Ethnicity data are part of a set of routinely collected administrative data used by health sector planners, funders and providers to design and deliver better policies, services and programmes. Better information will help improve every New Zealander’s health by providing a sound basis for decision-making. • In New Zealand, ethnic identity is recognised as an important dimension of health inequalities. The impact of those factors is particularly evident amongst Mäori and Pacific peoples, whose health status is lower on average than that of other New Zealanders. • The New Zealand Health Strategy highlights the need for better access to relevant information to improve decision-making by the health and disability sector and to give communities a greater role in decision-making (Minister of Health 2000). Ethnicity data form a core information data set for communities. • The health and disability sector has a role in providing quality ethnicity information that enables wider state-sector analysis of economic, social and cultural experiences of particular ethnic groups within the New Zealand population.

Are the Protocols different from those used by Statistics New Zealand?

No, the Protocols are based on Statistics New Zealand ethnicity data collection, but provide further information on situations more common in the health and disability sector. The Protocols use the same question and codes that Statistics New Zealand. This means health statistics on ethnicity can be compared with Census Statistics.

Is this a major change for the sector?

No, the Protocols build on existing practice by standardising the process of collection and providing a document where all the information required to collect high quality ethnicity data is in one place.

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